Promises, promises

Sigh.  Never promise a post.  It has been nearly a month since returning from camp, and still no post on camp itself.  I guess I just don’t feel like writing.  I have wondered if I could make some extra cash by writing a book and selling it on Amazon in ebook form.  Well, here is my answer- if I don’t feel like writing a short blog post I certainly will never feel like writing a much longer work.

At the moment I am unsure what to write about camp.  I can start with a summary and see where to go from there.  I really didn’t enjoy camp as much this year as prior years, but it was still the highlight of my summer.  So what happened?  Well, I will try to figure that out as I write.  I do know that it was a day shorter than prior years.  We were also rained out for a portion- all activities cancelled or moved indoors.  I had a smaller cabin than ever before, but that should be a plus, right? 😉  Another change was- there was so much missing from prior years.  Gone for the first time ever was an activity called counselor hunt where all the leaders hid around camp and the kids had to find us, trying to avoid being tagged themselves by a select few who were hunting *them.*  Gone were the cabin video walkthroughs and awards for clean cabins.  And of course some activities had to be cut because of the shortened camp week.  One of those things I was really looking forward to- the talent show.  Not enough slots for all the cabins since we were short a day.  All in all, it just wasn’t the same.

Well, this has been a negative post so far.  How about what was fun about it?  Well, I had a really good cabin.  I didn’t really know any of my five kids beforehand.  I did remember having one of them in my weekend small group, but that’s it.  One was the brother of a 5th-grader I had last year (now 6th grade) who, like his brother, I have not seen since in the weekend ministry.  One turned out to be the nephew of my small group leader though I didn’t know it at the time, not until he asked if I saw his nephew at camp.  Yes, yes I think I did see him…

My junior leader was a freshman in high school- one of the youngest I have had.  I think one other was his age.  Get this though- his younger brother was also a leader, in a cabin with 5th-graders (my five were all 4th grade), just two years younger than him.  I think the church has loosened the age rule a bit on junior leaders- just a couple years ago the rule was 11th grade, with the occasional special dispensation.  This 7th grade leader was actually in my cabin in both 4th and 5th grade, as was another leader who I think may just meet that old 11th grade rule.  Shows how long I have been doing this…  While my junior leader this year was never in my cabin, he was a regular in my weekend small group when he was in 5th grade.

Well, I am officially tired of writing this post right now.  I could just save it to drafts and finish it later, but I had better just hit publish so at least you have something to read for now.  Coming soon- the return of Zorb, canoeing fun, and more.  Until then!

KWAT: Kids, Work, Acting, and Trees

So it doesn’t spell a real word.  Sue me 😛 (no, please don’t- who can afford an attorney these days?)  Anyway, it is time for my bimonthly update it would seem.  Let’s try bullet points since much has gone on- not so dull after all.

  • AWANA- ended several weeks ago.  First year of round 3 complete.  In my previous round, the Sparkies I had the first year were K-2.  This year they finished 8th, 9th, and 10th grades.  Hard to believe there was a round even before that, but I have been serving in kid’s ministry since fall ’98, and started that first AWANA round fall ’99.
  • My AWANA team had a *lot* of 3rd-graders.  Where are they now?  Why, many of them have shown up in my weekend classroom.  That’s right, 3rd grade through high school officially moved up at the beginning of this month.  Younger kids don’t move up until the end of summer.  I can hear the sing-song voices of the older kids: “I’m now in 4th grade, but you’re still in fir-irst.  Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah!”
  • 5th graders moving out at the end of last month was as usual sad.  Some didn’t even bother showing up (not their fault I’m sure) which was even more sad because I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to them.  Especially since the week before I missed.
  • What?  I missed a week of church?  Blasphemy!  Okay, I have an excuse- I was in southern Illinois for my nephew’s graduation.  From college.  Yes, I am officially old…  I never want to repeat that weekend again, by the way.  We stayed at my nephew’s house (take that, h/motel industry with your doubled prices for graduation weekend!) which was in and of itself not a problem, but he had parties going on Friday and Saturday night.  Think me and parties, those that know me- college parties.  Kegs, beer pong, hip-hop (non)music…  Yeah, I appreciated going home at the end of it.  Oh yes, I watched my pastor’s sermon on the web, so I only missed the fellowship, not the message.
  • The boy’s TnT director had a mini-golf outing two weeks ago for kids who finished a book that year.  Does anyone recall the mini-golf outings my church experimented with a couple years ago for 4th and 5th grade small groups?  I’m sure I wrote up something as back then I was still making semi-regular posts here…  Yeah, it went like those.  28 book-finishers.  Two showed up.  Two.  Out of 28…  Sigh.  Still, for the few of us it was an enjoyable afternoon.
  • Two new employees for my company.  One person had moved to sales, so really just one new for all intents and purposes.  It does free me up a little for camp in August since I gave her two of my stores.  Yeah, August- two months later than prior years.  Well, six weeks anyway.  And minus a day too.  The church decided to change things for this summer to add two extra camp sessions, which actually gave them three because they are consolidating the two 4th and 5th grade weeks into just one for all campuses.  It is going to be crowded I think.  But it will still be fun.
  • The book store is closing at my church so I used the gift card that one of my AWANA kids gave me for Christmas (sweet of him) and added $20 of my own to get four books at 40% off.  Books by John MacArthur, Greg Laurie, David Jeremiah and John Piper- the former three who can be heard on Moody radio on a regular basis.  I also have a book from Erwin Lutzer and others books as well, so I really had better start reading them.  The only fiction book I am waiting to read is the final Wheel of Time book due out sometime this year.  No, scratch that.  It *was* due out in March of this year after having been pushed back.  Now it has been pushed back until next January.  Oh, well.  Plenty of time to read the more inspiring books of my collection first.
  • What of the musical I tried out for?  Didn’t make it.  Oh, well.  I wonder if God wants me to use my gifts elsewhere?  I sent an email to CYT Chicago, now apparently called Spotlight Youth  Theater to see if they had volunteer opportunities for non-parents.  Apparently not since they never bothered to email me back, even with a reply of “no.”
  • Today there was a short period of wind and a thunderstorm.  Sometime during it I heard a funny sound from outside.  I looked and saw that one of the trees in the front yard had assumed a mostly horizontal position.  Yikes!  I expected to see a scorch mark on what remained of the trunk, but apparently it was rotting and all it took was this wind storm to finish it off.  Praise God though- it fell on the ground and driveway and not on the house or one of the cars *on* the driveway.  In fact, there was at least a foot between the butt of my car and the nearest branch (which would have done little more than scratch the car- there was even greater distance from the thicker branches and trunk which could potentially have caused catastrophic damage.  Again, Praise God.

Saved the best for last, right?  Okay, maybe not, but at least it comes with pictures!  I have AWANA award ceremony pictures too, but I probably shouldn’t post them.

Part Deux

Okay, it looks like I focused a great deal on one small aspect of camp last time, but hey- it was new, and I enjoyed my role as director as much as how the skit went.  How about something a little less focused?  A lot of the camp activities was same-old for me, but how else could some thing be after seven years, even with a new cabin each year.  The camp staples were there- archery, riflery, crafts, competition games, food, bedrest (Michigan law- an hour each day must be spent in bed during the day to avoid overexhaustion).  Some things are new every year, like the Zorb this year as I already mentioned.  Also new this year was a game in the courtyard called gaga-ball (nothing to do with the pop star, actually a game imported from Israel) and one in the swim front area called nine-square, though we never played the latter.  Also new this year was the almost daily rain.  Years past have had no more than a couple days with some rain, but until the last day we had some rain every day.  Last year that rain canceled our wacky water sports instructional, but it was replaced by- a different wacky water sport the entire camp engaged in.  What they did was lay a tarp across a large portion of the game field and create a giant slip ‘n’ slide.  On it they had races and wacky games like an extreme duck-duck-goose.  Well, we had one time like that this year as well, during our canoeing time and free time after that.  That time started out normal, mind you.  By the time we actually got into our canoes, however, the rain started.  Meh- a little rain never hurt anyone.  But then it turned into sheets of rain accompanied by thunder.  Whoops- time to get out of the water.  No one overturned their canoe, but by the time we were ashore it sure felt like it.  We spent the next 15 minutes or so in a shelter before heading out, ending up in the tarp-encrusted game field.

Erm- so much for unfocused I guess.  Let’s see now.  Besides raining out part of an instructional, one of the competitions got rained out, except that time we all raced for the shelter of the lodge.  Our infamous counselor hunt also was nearly rained out, but it did stop in time for the hunt.  Last year I hid so well that no one found me.  This year I made it easier for them.  A group of three leaders were hidden as it turned out not very well, and I went downhill from them.  All the kids had to do was look down and there I was!  Then they had to climb down a steep hill to get to me- mwa-ha-ha-ha.  Well, once they saw me not a single group passed up the chance, but not all saw me oddly enough.

At the end of the week, the students were given an opportunity to give testimonies about their week at camp, and I was happy to see two of my own cabin go up to the microphones.  There they talked about accepting Jesus if they did, rededicating themselves, how they learned what kind of heart they had (shallow, crowded), and how they wanted a fruitful heart (see the parable of the seeds being sown on different soils).  A testimony that really touched me was from a boy from Iowa who started his testimony out with “I thought I knew God, but I really didn’t.”  I may be paraphrasing a little, I don’t remember the exact words.  How many of us think we really know who God is only to find out through some teaching somewhere, or some action by someone, that we really don’t know Him at all.  That’s the point where God enters into our lives as He revels Himself, and we either gladly grab on to the life preserver he gives us, or we utterly reject it and spend the rest of our lives trying to manage on our own.  Has He revealed Himself to you?  Did you grab on, repent, and become His adopted child?

I will leave you with these few pictures and videos from camp.  By the way, did anyone catch the title of my last post?  It is from a song we sang daily at camp, one where I witnessed the Holy Spirit at work more than some of the other songs, Like a Lion from the Passion Awakening album.  The Youtube video is at the end.

Gaga ball: dodgeball with nowhere to run!

 

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Just a minute to win this…

 

Help- I’m upside down!

 

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Humans + Foosball = life-sized foosball

 

 

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Now this is a worship time!

 

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My God is Not Dead, He’s Surely Alive

‘E’S BACK!  Yes, I have returned from the state of Michigan to learn there was a tornado in the area while I was away.  Two towns away, with little damage and no casualties, so not exactly those news breakers of weeks past.  Moving on, in addition to the additions and subtractions they make from year to year (i.e., the Zorb this year replaced mountain biking), there are always differences in the kids and the weather.  Each group of campers is different.  I had ten boys in my cabin this year, and a junior leader who was one of my 4th/5th grade kids at church (not camp) from years past.  I have had the sweetest kids you could know, and some, well, not quite the other end of the scale but leaning that way.  Sometimes strongly.  The most difficult one I had this year was mostly trouble at bedtime, not wanting to stay in bed, his own bed, etc.  During the day he was great to lead.  I originally had nine boys, but one was added at the last minute so in addition to the nine 5th graders, I had one 4th grader.  I won’t be able to form a strong relationship with him however, as his family will be moving out of state soon.  Nor will I have any relationship at all with another, who came as a friend of one of our students.  He has Christian parents however (and he already accepted Christ), unlike another guest I had a few years ago who came from a decidedly non-Christian family, though he did accept Jesus during his week at camp.

One of the new things this year was a talent show.  I made sure to sign up for a skit, though I did come prepared with some songs from Oliver! in case we had to sing.  You see, there was only one slot available each night for skits.  This will have to be tweaked a bit for next year as no one signed up for the first night.  Too little rehearsal time?  Together we decided to do a backstage audition scene, though looking like an Idol episode with three judges holding their product-placement IBC root beer bottles.  We came up with a script the first couple days, tweaking it even at the last rehearsal.  I assigned three judge roles, one being kind of a mean one (yeah, you know…); six contestants in three acts (one became a security guard instead during a tweak); and one cameraman who dropped out when he wasn’t feeling very well on the day of performance, giving me his line which didn’t quite work out as it was meant for a cameraman, not someone yelling from offstage.  The one who didn’t want to even do a skit turned out to do a great job as a judge.  I would say that they wrote half the script adding great ideas like a group doing a purposely bad “pattycake” routine, calling themselves the Pattycake Pros, or PPs for short (remember the audience/participant ages!).  We also had a male diva contestant named Justin B-[eye]-ber, who the judges naturally mispronounce.  The mispronounced name was my idea, but the kids came up with the contestant idea among others.  He was dragged off by the security guard after hitting a judge, only to return later chased by that same security guard.  The kids added being chased by some girls at the end, so we borrowed a few from a girl’s cabin who would chase him thinking he must be the famous pop star, where he once again shouted that he was B-[eye]-ber, not B-[ee]-ber.  The most amazing addition they came up with was changing my generic “Jesus Rocks” at the end of another bad performance (making it a smashing hit in the judges eyes as a result instead of another flop) to a bible verse from the lesson earlier that day about not fearing, finding comfort in God instead.  I believe the verse was Psalm 27:1.  That was the Holy Spirit talking through the boy who came up with that change!

This post is getting kind of long, and I have to get a couple things done before I go to bed, so I will leave you with this video from the Zorb activity.  This answers the question, “Is it safe to be in front of a moving Zorb?”

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Counting down

It is June already and it looks like warm weather is finally here to stay.  Two weeks ago we somberly said goodbye to the 5th graders, sending them off in a prayer as we laid hands on them.  They finished not only the 4th/5th grade ministry, but moved out of children’s ministry altogether to student ministries where they will spend the next seven years.  This weekend, the third grade room remained dark, as it will for the next two months or so as we welcomed them as the new fourth grade.  At our church 3rd grade and up get bumped in June for camp reasons, but the younger kids have to wait until August.  I guess it is a little strange, the first weekend or so in June, to be called a fourth-grader (for example) when many have not yet finished third grade at school.

We also kicked off our summer series, Transformers.  Yes, we are borrowing off of a popular movie theme (yes it was a cartoon first, but seeing as how many of their parents weren’t even grown up at the time, let alone their own existence…).  However, the name is where similarities begin and end.  Unfortunately our worship band moved up with the old 5th-grade or out (the college-bound ones) so we are working on replacing them.  Hmm.  Actually, it was the Saturday night band that is gone, but we still did the song videos instead of the normal worship at 11:15 even though those band members were still present- I wonder why?

Saturday night I think we need guy leaders now in a big way.  I was the only one there, along with two gal leaders.  I know one will be coming back in a few weeks, but we could use more.  My “small” group was twenty-some boys- ideally, groups should be about six or so.  So anyway, the lesson was one on being rooted in Christ, and not comparing ourselves to one another.  As Paul wrote to the Phillipians, he had much call to call himself better than others as he was a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” a Pharisee, and zealous for his religion.  Instead, he counted it as loss, rubbish compared with his identity in Christ.  As His, we are equal no matter our station, our jobs, our finances, etc.

Moving on, did I mention camp?  Oh, yes I did.  Less than two weeks, and I am making trip #7 out there with an all new group!  There is much to be excited about, but one thing tops all others.  Every year we get something new.  In the past additions have included  a lodge building, a zipline, pontoon boats, and a waterslide (thankfully I started there the year after they got permanent showers…).  Well, this year apparently we got something a bit different.  Raise your hand if you ever wanted to be a hamster after watching them roll around in their hamster balls.  That’s right, our new addition to camp is in the form of two giant inflatable hamster, err- people balls called Zorbs.  Here is a random video found on youtube:

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and from the inside:

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Now that looks exciting.  I hope they don’t roll it down too steep of a hill though.  Imagine what would happen if one got sick in one of those…  Or, best not to imagine.

Anyway, a new year at church, a new post. I hope you enjoyed it. 🙂

I really will try to post at least once more before Camp 2011.  I mean it.  That I will try, that is. 😉

At war with chickens

What?  It’s time for my weekly post again?  I guess I should wrap up my camp series since I have been back for three weeks now…  Let’s see what I can write about.  How about the annual new thing at camp?  This year it was the water slide.  No, nothing fancy like at water parks- just a large, plastic(?) construction pipe shooting down into one of the camp’s many water holes- one that fortunately did not have a (deserved) name like Leech Lake.  Actually there were two pipes- only one of which the kids got to go down due to their age.  It went straight (well, angled) down into the lake.  The other one had a nasty upward curve at the end- this became the unofficial leader slide.  This pond, by the way, was 14 feet deep at maximum so  the kids wore life vests.  As well, there were a few lifeguards who were fortunately unneeded for our time there.  I helped a little with pushing kids down and managed to go down the leader slide twice during the time.  As leaders, we weren’t required to wear life vests and so I didn’t.   I have to say I didn’t entirely enjoy the experience, though it was certainly exhilarating.  It probably has to do with my paranoia of losing a contact in the water.  I wore goggles, but they were ripped off my head during the landing the second time I went down.  I felt it happen so I kept my eyes tightly closed while swimming, thereby keeping both contacts intact.  Needless to say, that was my last time down the slide.  After that I had a little fun dragging some of my campers through the water by their feet when they approached shore- something that could only be done because the life vests kept them afloat.

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An activity introduced last year was the pontoon boats.  The kids were taken on a tour over the lake on these boats, and even made a stop for some swimming fun and ice cream.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to partake this year due to overcrowding- only two leaders got to go with.  Notice in the above picture (remember, you can click on them for larger versions!) three different head-band colors on just the boys- that’s three different cabins without counting the girls cabins also present!  So, one leader promptly dragged down a kayak, intending to follow the pontoon boats and another quickly followed suit.  Never having been in a kayak before, I didn’t think following the pontoon boats would be suitable for me, but as I had been looking at these kayaks wistfully over the last few years I did decide to take one out.  I later learned that I could have just taken the kayak out to the swim and ice cream spot but I didn’t know at the time so I just paddled around the kids doing canoeing (an activity my cabin missed out on this year due to a windy day the day before).  It was fun, but I am not sure what I would have done had the kayak flipped.  I guess I would have had to slide out and drag it ashore as I can’t imagine how I could flip it back over while sitting in it or getting back in in the middle of the lake after sliding out and turning it over.  Fortunately I didn’t have to.

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Did I mention Leech Lake earlier? That last picture is Pastor Steve getting tossed into Leech Lake as one of the many rewards for treasures kids could find. After he climbed out, he counted out the leeches as he pulled them off. Don’t worry, there weren’t too many, but earlier in the week he had the service who had the most sign-ups shave his hair into a mohawk- poor Steve! My team lost this one by the flip of a coin (two services tied), oh well.

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My final say on camp week, unless I remember something else I wanted to write, is about the drama.  Every year there is drama included as part of the lesson time, but until this year I didn’t get to do it.  Part of this was due to uncertainty over whether I would even go to camp as summer work was unclear.  This year I was able to say that I was going for sure, but even so I didn’t get to perform until the last evening session.  Originally I was going to play a role as a soldier prepared for battle, but the day Pastor Steve came to get me during cabin rest time, my junior counselor was asleep so I couldn’t leave the cabin, and it was felt that I shouldn’t wake him up.  Instead, they switched my role to the Colonel who was waiting for the soldiers to be prepared (one was Private Slacker, so as you can imagine not everyone was prepared… long hair, wrong uniform, silly things in backpack, lack of understanding…).  On the last day everyone was surprised when Slacker was actually prepared much to the surprise of  his drill sergeant who was afraid to show him to the Colonel.  By the way, my name was Colonel Sanders- we were at war with the chickens of course- now why would chickens be at war with the Colonel?  Hmm…

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EDIT: A couple more waterslide shots I pulled from the camp video:
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Failure…may result in elimination

A little something about the up front games.  They were based on a TV show apparently- Minute to Win it.  On one rainy morning the worship and teaching times were held inside and so we even got to see the blueprint for the game, chocolate unicorn:

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If I recall, my team actually won that one though nobody completed “the task”, even with the required number being reduced to six.  Another up front game involved bouncing quarters into a bin that my cabin had happily colored for Miss Lisa, another leader of our church’s kid’s ministry.  No pie-in-face surprises that I know of like last year happened.

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One of the biggest changes from last year was the elimination of the morning competition in favor of a longer instructional time.  In some cases this new, longer instructional was two normal related instructionals tied together in the longer time, such as archery/riflery and wacky water games (actually two competition games from last year that didn’t count for points this year).  There were some new instructionals too.  On Tuesday was one of them- outdoor survival.  This was actually a combo of an older instructional, fishing, with a survival extension to it.  The first thing that happened was Jim, a leader in my cabin from last year, caught a bass which the first group cooked up while my group fished.  He later caught a trout for our group just before we switched.  For outdoor survival the instructor demonstrated cutting the fish, hopefully dead of lack of air by that time, and then taught how to start a fire with a magnesium block (with a flint strip on one side), a little paper and more natural fuel like leaves and twigs, and a pocket knife.  It looks like I failed this course as I was unable to help one of my 5th graders start and maintain a fire.

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A night event turned instructional was a hay ride.  Well, there was hay in a stack elsewhere in camp but not on the trailers.  One trailer was pulled by a 40s-era tractor, and ours (the “boys” trailer) was pulled by something a bit more recent- a little bulldozer like one of those Bobcats, but somewhat larger.  This was in one of the longer morning timeslots so this was a lazy time with a couple of stops, one at a big sand pit.

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We later returned to sand pit in the afternoon bike/hike instructional, though the kids didn’t get play time there this time around, being a shorter instructional.  We had the first day so the assigned instructors were still working out a few bugs such as taking the smaller group biking first, which would have been fine except we were to meet the hiking group along the way instead of back at the tent so there were not enough bikes for the second group- some of us had to run back to the tent and retrieve extra bikes.  I hope my advice of taking the larger group first was followed the rest of the week.  For the hike we walked through the woods for a time, off the literal beaten path.  And mostly downhill.  Did I mention the bike/hike met at the top of a very steep hill?  Well, at least we ended up back near the boys cabin area, so we were able to easily get ready on time for the flag-lowering.  Well, as much as my cabin was able to be on time anyway.  I learned quickly that I needed to organize their bathroom and changing time better.  Not that I did said organization in a timely fashion mind you, just that I learned it needed to be done. 😉

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In any event, this post is getting kind of long, so… more to come.

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PS- A couple sand fort pics! Note: Click on any of the pics for larger versions.

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